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Today, in an effort to be sophisticated and contemporary, many Christians have stopped trying to persuade others to follow Christ. There's an underlying feeling in our society that nice people just don't go around persuading other people to do things.

Some folks seem to think that convincing others to follow Christ is the same as ramming the Gospel down their throats. As a result they shy away from witnessing, thinking that living a comfortable Christian life is good enough. Other Christians, who believe that salvation is totally a result of God's intervention, feel no need to persuade others to follow Christ.

However, communicating the message of Jesus Christ--persuading others to repent and believe--is the primary objective of every spiritually renewed Christian. And it is something that always pleases our Heavenly Father.

Paul explains the importance of persuading others: "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.... If we are beside ourselves, it is . . .
Today, in an effort to be sophisticated and contemporary, many Christians have stopped trying to persuade others to follow Christ. There's an underlying feeling in our society that nice people just don't go around persuading other people to do things.

Some folks seem to think that convincing others to follow Christ is the same as ramming the Gospel down their throats. As a result they shy away from witnessing, thinking that living a comfortable Christian life is good enough. Other Christians, who believe that salvation is totally a result of God's intervention, feel no need to persuade others to follow Christ.

However, communicating the message of Jesus Christ--persuading others to repent and believe--is the primary objective of every spiritually renewed Christian. And it is something that always pleases our Heavenly Father.

Paul explains the importance of persuading others: "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.... If we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you" (2 Corinthians 5:11-13).

Paul, in essence, is saying that some people will consider anyone who witnesses a lunatic. But that's OK with Paul. To those who would accuse him of madness, he says, "That's OK. If I'm crazy, it's for God."

Paul decided that if people were going to think him crazy, and his perceived craziness was the result of his being obedient to God, that was acceptable to him.

Every Christian today must make the same decision. We must decide whether we are willing to obey God and persuade others to follow Christ--despite the cost.

Once we've decided to ignore insults and misperceptions, we are free to persuade others. But until we make that decision, we will be cowards--hesitant to witness to anyone.

Of course, we really don't persuade others through our own efforts; we allow the indwelling Christ to persuade others through us. We are happy and willing subjects, allowing the Lord to use our intellectual abilities, emotions, and verbal faculties as instruments of persuasion.

Several barriers, however, can prevent Christians from fulfilling this responsibility. Today, even in Christian circles, some people think we don't need to witness because the lost are happy "just as they are." People who believe that are pretty naive.

Another barrier to persuading others to follow Christ is "sophistication." That is, as we adopt our culture's values, we find it increasingly difficult to persuade others. We don't want to offend people, appear strange, or lose a newfound status. So we do nothing.

I, too, have been guilty of this. My next-door neighbor when I lived in Mexico City was a young television personality. We would chat from time to time, and he even mentioned that he listened to our radio program occasionally. But I didn't share the Gospel of Christ with him. After all, I thought, he seems completely immune to the problems of life.

Suddenly, though, my neighbor changed. The joy seemed to have left his face. He and his wife started driving separate cars to work. I could tell their marriage was souring, and I felt the need to talk to him, but I didn't want to meddle in his life. I went about my business and left for an evangelistic campaign in Peru. After all, that was the polite thing to do.

When I returned home, I learned my neighbor had committed suicide. I was heartbroken. I knew I should have gone to him and persuaded him to repent and follow Christ. But because of false courtesy--because I followed a social norm--I didn't do it.

It's very convenient to make excuses for not persuading others to follow Christ. We may say we don't want to be overbearing or offensive. We may think we can't possibly witness to a person because he or she will become angry.

But when we approach life's situations with the absolute conviction that we are to persuade others about Christ, we will have courage. We will discover that people are open to the Gospel message.

Over the years I have learned that some of the people I thought would be most closed to the Gospel often are the most receptive. Although they may outwardly fear it, in their hearts they welcome the message of the Gospel.

As renewed Christians, our responsibility is simply to be obedient and available for God's use. When our aim is to please God, we have a firm determination to persuade others to follow Jesus Christ. That conviction gives direction and joy to life.

No matter where we work or what we do, we have an objective that stands above all else--to persuade others to follow Christ.

? 1996 by Luis Palau
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